Saturday, June 15, 2024

Carnel of Pork

I was perusing Project Gutenberg's copy of The Forme of Cury, a collection of recipes compiled around 1390AD "by the Master Cooks of King Richard II", which you can access here.

My goal was to find recipe(s) that I could successfully do at an historical cooking demonstration location.  I finally was able to get back to doing some demonstrations this year!  The site had a lovely outdoor kitchen with tables for preparation, many platters/bowls/cooking pots, a big fire pit, and a wood-fired oven.  I decided I wasn't ready to try baking as I needed to get back into the techniques needed to prep and cook over fire in front of the public.  The venue was set in Elizabethan England, so recipes prior to 1600 would work just fine.

One that caught my attention was

CARNEL [1] OF PORK. XXXII.

Take the brawnn of Swyne. parboile it and grynde it smale and alay it up with zolkes of ayren. set it ouere [2] the fyre with white Grece and lat it not seeþ to fast. do þerinne Safroun an powdour fort and messe it forth. and cast þerinne powdour douce, and serue it forth.

[1] Carnel, perhaps Charnel, from Fr. Chaire. [2] ouere. Over. So again, No. 33.

In other words, 

Take pork, parboil it, grind it small, and thicken it with egg yolks.  Cook it with lard and cook it slowly.  Add saffron and powder forte, and put it on a platter to serve.  Sprinkle with powder douce, and serve.

 My Redaction

1 pound pork tenderloin (boneless)

3 egg yolks, well beaten

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening or lard

1 teaspoon powder fines (see note below)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon saffron

1/4 teaspoon salt

a sprinkling of powder douce (see note below)

Notes:  My powder fines is a spice mix containing cinnamon, cloves, ginger, grains of paradise, pepper, and saffron.  Powder forte is supposed to be a strong (forte) flavored mix, which is why I took the fines and added more pepper to it, along with salt to more suit modern palates.  

My powder douce is a spice mix containing cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and star anise.  Powder douce is supposed to be a sweet (douce) mixture; what I used was a Baker's Spice Mix -- good for sweet breads.  It was mild enough to be a garnish.

The powder douce did not make it into the picture.

Grind the spices and salt together.  Set aside.

Cut the pork into chunks -- I did four 1/4-pound pieces.  Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, then put in one chunk.  This will drop the temperature to below a boil.  Set the timer for 5 minutes and watch the water.  You want at most a slow simmer for a parboil, so adjust the heat as needed.  When the time is up, remove the meat and place in a bowl to drain.  Keep parboiling the pieces like this.  The goal is to lightly cook them without making the meat tough; they don't even have to be cooked all the way through.  Just not completely raw.  

If a piece looks only slightly cooked, put it back into the hot water for a few more minutes.

Before parboiling

Parboiled:  the two pieces on the left went back in for 3 minutes each
Let the meat cool until you can easily handle it.  Cut it into small pieces or grind it (I cut it).  Mix well with the egg yolks.

Melt the fat over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add the meat and stir well.  Cook slowly over a low to medium heat (2 to 4 out of 10), stirring occasionally to mix the meat, yolks, and fat together.

Cook until the meat is no longer pink, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Mix in the spices thoroughly while the meat is still hot.

Put the mixture into a bowl or other container that functions as a mold for the final product.  Compress the mixture using a flat-bottomed cup or similar object.

Put a plate over the bowl and quickly turn the bowl and plate over to unmold the meat.

Sprinkle with powder douce lightly as a garnish.

Serve and enjoy!

My Notes

I first made this for a public demonstration.  I parboiled the meat at home in advance, then completed the preparation in front of the public.  I chose to cut instead of grinding because I didn't want to pound all the meat in a mortar.  For the demonstration I used 2 pounds of pork, 5 egg yolks, and double the amount of spices listed above.  It turned out well and I wanted to make it for this blog.

The meat is much easier to cut up into small pieces after parboiling.  Well worth the time.

I pounded and rubbed the spices together in the mortar until they looked reasonably blended.  The saffron threads did not all break up, which was fine with me.

It took some time to cut the meat up in small pieces, about 1/4 inch cubes.  Smaller pieces would work, too, or grinding/pounding them to more of a paste.  Notice the pink in the pieces below, but none of them looked completely raw.
Meat and yolks before mixing.
The idea of the yolks is to coat the meat pieces before cooking.

Ready to cook!

The slow cooking and regular stirring keeps the yolks from turning into hard-boiled egg consistency.  It acts like a sauce.
No pink.  It is done.

With the spices mixed in.
Packed into the mold.
You can see flecks of color where the spices are.  The saffron displays as orange threads.  They smelled good while I was mixing them in.

Unmolded and garnished.  Ready to serve.

The Verdict

I served it as the main course along with sliced tomatoes garnished with minced shallots, green onions, and parsley dressed with a mixture of olive oil (lemon infused), balsamic vinegar (lime infused), and a little salt.  Also toasted sourdough bread.


My guest taster and I spooned some of the carnel onto our plates.  We ate it like that or spooned onto a piece of toast.  At the public demonstration, the carnel was part of a larger potluck and was placed on the main dish table, and served as it was presented.

We both loved it.  Meaty, creamy, and the spices were zesty!  My tongue got little blasts of spice while I was eating it, not quite like having chiles but close.  If the spice level was lower, I think the carnel would have been bland and uninteresting.  

I felt the same way about it at the public demonstration -- I almost underspiced it then; I'm so glad I didn't.

The meat was very tender, which we both appreciated.  

Success!  

This is so easy to do, and I think it would be a good dish for a potluck.  

Grinding it would make it more of a paté, so it could be spread on toast or crackers.


Saturday, June 1, 2024

Albóndigas delicadas -- Delicate meatballs, a Pinedo recipe

Today my attention was attracted to this Pinedo recipe on page 5.  The idea of a "delicate" meatball appealed to me, and I wondered if I could achieve that delicate goal.  I wasn't sure it meant that the flavor or the texture was delicate, or both, but I wanted to try it.




My Translation

Delicate meatballs.

         Raw poultry breasts are cut into small pieces; bring them to a boil and then grind or mince until they are reduced to a paste.

         Take a good amount of white breadcrumbs that will be boiled in broth, set aside and let cool, put in the mortar and grind with the poultry breasts, adding pepper, salt, nutmeg, a piece of butter the size of an egg, parsley and green onions very finely chopped, two shallots and some cooked egg yolks.

         All this is stirred well, and with it they are formed into meatballs by hand, immediately tossing them into the broth to cook them.


My Redaction

1 3/4 lbs raw chicken breast, boneless and skinless

1 cup breadcrumbs made from a French bread loaf that was a few days dried (not rock hard)

1 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

3 tablespoons butter

1/8 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup green onion (white and green parts), finely chopped

1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped

4 cooked egg yolks, mashed


Heat 3 - 4 inches of water in a large kettle or Dutch oven to boiling.

Cut the chicken meat into chunks that will conveniently fit into the feed tube of a meat grinder.

When the water is boiling, put the chicken meat into the water.  Stir occasionally.  When the water returns to a boil, remove the meat, draining it as it is removed.  Keep the resulting broth in the kettle and maintain the heat beneath it.

Add 3/4 cup of the broth into the bread crumbs, and stir until all the crumbs are moistened.  Set aside.

Put the meat through a meat grinder using the fine plate.

Add the moistened bread crumbs to the ground meat and mix well.  

Add the pepper, salt, nutmeg, butter, parsley, green onion, shallot, and egg yolks.  Stir until everything is well-mixed.  The mixture should form a cohesive ball, like a soft dough.  Not soggy but not dry, and it should stick to itself.

Bring the broth back up to a boil.  Reduce heat to create a strong simmer.  Form balls with a 1- to 1 1/2-inch diameter.  

Drop the balls in batches of 5 to 10 into the broth.  When the balls float, remove and drain them; place in the serving dish.

My Notes

The method of putting the chicken chunks into hot water resulted in a broth and also the chicken was cooked all the way through.  I saw no pink meat at all.

Before
After

I tried to envision boiling the breadcrumbs in the broth and then taking them out, and it just seemed that I would lose more into the broth even if I used a fine sieve to get them out.  So I chose to just add the hot broth the crumbs and skip the mess.

Moistened, not soggy
Miss Pinedo might have had access to a food grinder, but her instructions seemed to indicate the cook would be using a mortar and pestle, or perhaps a mano and metate.  I took advantage of my modern technology to grind the meat to a paste.  The fine plate did a good job.  

Finely ground chicken breast
I chose to mix the crumbs and meat with my hand; this was because the meat was so finely ground already.  It didn't need more grinding with the bread.  I both scooped and squished the two ingredients together until it felt like they were uniformly blended.  I think you should be willing to add a little broth if the mixture does not behave well.

Bread and meat
My main concern was following the instructions for specific amounts of butter and shallots without having an idea of how much breast meat Pinedo thought should be used.  Once I chose the two large pieces of meat, I decided to use less of each with the hope of making the mixture balanced in flavor.

Very finely chopped!
Once all the ingredients were put with the meat mixture, I mixed it all by hand, again working it until everything seemed uniformly mixed.  I tasted it and I liked the balance of salt, pepper, onions, parsley, and shallots.  

Notice the moisture level.
The mixture was moist enough to stick together when I pushed it with my hand.  When I formed the balls, I made sure I pushed the mixture together to get rid of cracks or holes.

Ready for cooking
I cooked two meatballs alone first to make sure they would stay as balls when in the hot water.  They did, and it only took a minute or two for them to rise to the surface.  After that, I put in more balls to cook at once.  As one batch cooked, I made another batch.  The broth was hot-to-simmering, but not actively boiling because I was afraid that would break up the meatballs.

Floaties!

The Verdict

I served the meatballs in a dish with no sauce or anything else on them.  I included a side dish of rotini pasta coated with a ramps pesto and mixed with the chopped egg whites left over from the yolks used in the meatball mixture.  Thank you to @blackforager on Instagram for the ramps pesto inspiration!

I think they swelled some upon cooking.
So, were the meatballs delicate?  

Yes, they were very soft, but not so soft that they fell apart.  I guess the better word was tender.  The meat and other ingredients stuck to themselves well until the fork pushed against them, then the balls broke up easily.  The meatballs were very tender to bite.  They had a fine texture and were very moist inside.

Yes, in flavor, they were also delicate.  By that I mean the flavor was not robust, but we could taste the pepper and the onions/parsley/shallot flavorings.  The salt level was right.  I could not discern the nutmeg; it wouldn't hurt to add more.  Or, now that I think about it, sprinkle some nutmeg over the tops of the balls just before serving!  That would be a nice garnish.

My guest taster and I both felt the flavors were balanced, with just enough pepper to make it interesting and to add a little bitter to the onions and shallot, which were cooked enough to remove any bite but still leave a good flavor.

Success!  They didn't need any sauce and they stood up for themselves as a main dish.  They paired nicely with the pasta side dish.  Together they formed a very tasty meal.

I think using chicken breast helped to make it delicate in flavor.  I typically do not use breast meat because thigh meat is moister and has more flavor.  But this was, I think, the right choice.


Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Cowboy Cookin': Bean Pie

At age 13, Verne Carlson ran away from his home in Connecticut to Utah where he became an assistant to a cowboy range cook.  Later, he spent eight years researching the cowboy life, gathering information and memorabilia, and then wrote a book in 1999 called The Cowboy CookbookClick here to find it on archive.org.

ISBN 0-937844-00-4

It is quite a fun read.  He describes the history and development of the cattle trails, then outlines the design of a chuckwagon.  As someone who has cooked over fire and coals during historical cooking demonstrations, I appreciate the details on the equipment and how to best utilize the fire pit to "build" a meal for many hungry cowboys and have it all come out right.

The measurements chapter is hilarious because it contains the cook's lingo for a teaspoon ("gob"), a tablespoon ("lump"), and 2 rounded cupfuls ("a whole heap") versus one rounded cupful ("a heap"), among other things.  Carlson explains that he was able to get experienced camp cooks to reproduce their recipes but frustrated them by insisting that he get their measurements as they were doing it.  Their response was "Hell-far! A hand 'ud up and starve t'death waitin' for you to get it built!".  But at least we know the recipes are authentic.

The recipes are, as promised, inexpensive and easy to prepare, as was required when cooking on the cattle trail.  Vegetables are few and either boiled or put into stews as salad was considered "rabbit food".  Meat, beans, rice, corn, potatoes, and bread were the main ingredients, and a good cook knew how to do a lot with them.  Not just beefsteaks and stew meat, but all parts of a cow were utilized because the cowboys would slaughter as they needed food while they traveled.  There are recipes that use tripe, liver, and kidneys.

Often the beef fat was used, too, as well as lard and butter, in main dishes and desserts.  Sometimes beef fat was mixed with molasses to make a topping used like butter, called "Charlie Taylor."  Sourdough was a common ingredient, but the cook would use baking soda, too, for variety of bread types.  

I tried the Bean Pie recipe on page 112.




My Notes
Carlson gives many recipes for cooked beans, so I started with canned baked beans.  By the way, the cowboys called canned goods "airtights."

I poured off the liquid that was on top of the beans, but I did not attempt to drain them further.  

The beans (a little more than one can's worth; true to the range cook's credo, I didn't really measure but estimated) went into a bowl, then I used a potato masher to get them to a paste.  As you can see below, I didn't get them smooth, but they were definitely smoother.


They spread easily into the pan, then I gently poured the vinegar over the top, forming a pool.  I measured the brown sugar into a bowl then used my fingers to sprinkle it around the top of the beans.  The bacon made a pretty pattern, too.


Beans in the pan.  The amount of space above them is important.

Vinegar as a pool on top.

Brown sugar sprinkled all over.

Ready for the oven!
I baked it for 20 minutes at 450 degrees F.  I noticed there was a lot of bubbling and the volume increased enough that it almost overflowed the pan.  The amount of beans was just right to avoid the overflow.  Don't be tempted to fill the pie pan more.
Hot out of the oven.

The Verdict

I served the bean pie with buttered sourdough bread and rabbit food.  I let it cool for about five minutes in hope the beans would firm up -- they looked very liquid right out of the oven, not at all what I expected for a pie.  They stayed liquidy, so I took scissors and cut the bacon into spoonable chunks before serving.  
Yummy rabbit food, too!

The flavor was, not surprisingly, of baked beans, but the vinegar and brown sugar added a lovely sweet-and-sour support - sometimes the vinegar made my mouth water - and the bacon was meaty and chewy.  We loved it.  My guest taster had several servings, and enjoyed spreading it on his bread.  Success, despite it not being a slice of pie.

I wonder if I should have drained more of the liquid off the beans before mashing them. The recipe says the paste should be poured into the pan, so I was unclear as to how much liquid they should have.  If I did this again, I would spend more time draining the beans through a sieve.

I imagine this technique as adaptable for say, mashed pumpkin or sweet potatoes in place of the beans.  Adding vinegar, brown sugar, and bacon would be gilding the lily.  Well worth the try.


Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Liebre enchilada -- Hare enchilada, a Pinedo recipe

The Pinedo recipe I chose for this post is on page 148, "Liebre enchilada", or "Hare enchilada."  When I think about Mexican food, the word "enchilada" conjures up visions of rolled tortillas filled with shredded meat or cheese or vegetables, drenched in a red or green chile sauce, and sprinkled liberally with shredded cheese after being baked in the oven. 

While she does have recipes that meet my vision, the only part of that description this recipe matches is the chile sauce.  It is really a stew, so the word "enchilada" means "to season with chiles."


My Translation

Hare enchilada.

                   Cut the hare into small pieces. Put to fry in fresh and hot butter with pieces of lardon.

         The hare will be fried over a live fire, and when it begins to brown, add enough chopped onion, garlic, and salt.

         Everything will fry well, stirring the casserole without stopping, immediately adding tomatoes, olives, chopped mushrooms, one or two tablespoons of dry flour and oregano powder.

         Cover the hare well with a chile sauce, letting it cook, covered, in the casserole over a moderate heat.


My Redaction

3 1/4 pound rabbit

2 - 3 tablespoons butter

1 - 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or equivalent in lardo or bacon)

1 large onion, chopped

2 heaping teaspoons crushed garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves, ground in a mortar until powdered

6 ounces sliced crimini mushrooms

4 Roma tomatoes, chopped

20 black olives, halved longwise

2 tablespoons flour

28 ounce can red enchilada sauce


Have the oregano ground, the mushrooms cleaned and sliced, the tomatoes and onion chopped, and the olives sliced before starting the cooking process.

Rinse and pat dry the rabbit, then cut into serving-size pieces (they will still have bones).

Heat the butter and shortening (or lardo or bacon) in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until melted and hot.

Add the pieces of rabbit.  Turn them as they sizzle to brown them on all sides.  It took about 15 minutes.

Add onion, garlic, and salt, stirring them in well.  Stir often (but I did stop at times) until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, flour, and oregano.  Stir well and let cook a minute or two.

Add the enchilada sauce.  Stir well.  

Reduce heat to medium low, making the sauce simmer.  Cover the Dutch oven.

Cook until the meat is tender and cooked through, about half an hour.


My Notes

I understand that Ms. Pinedo, by specifying hare, was probably envisioning meat with a more wild taste than the farmed rabbit I used here.  Even if she substituted in rabbit, it was probably also wild, which I would expect to have more flavor than a farmed rabbit.  But we have to work with what we can get, and I could get a rabbit.

It is important to have all the ingredients prepared before starting the cooking process because the timing is short between steps.  

I used canned enchilada sauce, which is made from red chiles, water, vinegar, and salt.  I have made red chile sauce from dried chiles, but on pages 248-9, Miss Pinedo gives us a recipe for a "Red chile picante sauce", which is made by soaking and pureeing dried chiles, then flavoring them with green onions, oregano, olives, salt, vinegar, and olive oil.  She then states that for enchilada sauce, we should not use the olive oil and vinegar.  I decided not to worry about the vinegar.

The steps:

In the midst of browning the meat.
With garlic, onions, and salt.

With everything but the sauce.

Everything!

The Verdict

I served a simple dinner of the stew and warmed corn tortillas on the side.  I made sure every bowlful had at least one meaty piece of rabbit in it.  I also put a bowl on the table to take the bones once the meat was cut or bitten off them.


We enjoyed it very much!  The flavor was spicy from the chile sauce (I used a medium heat sauce, which I think was very brave of me - ha!).  The oregano was a light side flavor, enough to make it interesting and not too strong.  The salt level was just right.

We loved the chunks of onion, olives, and tomato.  Sometimes a spoonful (or forkful) did not include meat, so having those chunks of flavor kept the sauce from just being a sauce.  

The only challenge was getting the meat off the bones.  We each had a fork, knife, and spoon; the strategy was to use the fork and knife to cut the meat off the bone, and then use the fork or spoon to eat the meat with sauce and maybe chunks.  We both worried about splashing sauce on our clothing.  At one point, I held the meat with my fingers and nibbled the meat off the bones.  In other words, our cloth napkins were well-used by the end of the meal!

Sometimes I put a spoonful of meat/sauce/chunks onto a corn tortilla.  I then folded the tortilla over the stew and ate it that way.  That was good, too.  I also enjoyed dunking pieces of tortilla into the sauce.

Success!  If I were to do this again, I would debone the meat.  The rabbit was super expensive, so I would probably use chunks of pork or deboned chicken thighs instead.  

The leftovers were, I think, even better the next day.  The flavors seemed more blended.  I was out of corn tortillas, so I served it with sourdough bread.  The sour of the bread was a good compliment to the spicy of the sauce.  

For all Pinedo recipes, see my blog "The Spanish Cook Without Equal" at pinedo1898.blogspot.com



Monday, April 15, 2024

Leche Lombard, a medieval date roll, with a Chinese-style bonus!

Leche Lombard is a medieval English recipe on page 133 in A Taste of History by Maggie Black.  I made this dish once before, years ago, and recalled how much I enjoyed it.  When I came across the recipe again, I took the opportunity to make it.

ISBN 0-7141-1788-9

The word "leche" implies that something is thickened.  In this case, a spiced date puree is thickened with egg yolks and bread crumbs, turning it into finger food, and served as an appetizer or a dessert.  It is not hard to make, especially if you have modern kitchen tools like a stick blender or a food processor.  If you want to go more "medieval", you can use a mortar and pestle.

In this case, I was taking it to a social gathering where I knew the people would be willing to try something new.  

Leche Lumbard -- Date Slices with Spiced Wine

1 3/4 pound dates, pits removed

3/4 pint medium-dry white wine

3 ounces light soft brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

6 hard-boiled egg yolks

about 6 ounces soft brown bread crumbs **have more on hand just in case**

3 - 4 tablespoons Madeira heated with a pinch of mixed spices

My bread crumbs were not brown, but they were soft.
Break up the dates and simmer with the wine and sugar until pulpy.  Pound or put through a food processor until almost smooth.  Mix in the spices and sieve or work in the egg yolks.  In a bowl, knead in enough breadcrumbs to make the mixture as stiff as marzipan.  Form it into a 2 inch (5 cm) diameter roll, and chill until firm.  Cut into 1/4 inch slices.  Arrange in overlapping lines on a plate, and trickle a drop or two of cooled, spiced wine over each slice.

My Notes

This recipe and a different redaction of it, is also found on page 138 of Fabulous Feasts by Madeleine Pelner Cosman.  That is how I knew the original name, which is not part of A Taste of History.

Here are the pictures of cooking the dates "until pulpy."

Ready to cook.
Pulpy.
I used a stick blender to puree the dates in the pan:

Smooth enough!
Just for fun, I pounded the bread in the mortar and sieved it until it was little bits.  I also pushed the egg yolks through a sieve until it was tiny pieces.
Then I mixed everything together well.  It wasn't as stiff as I wanted or as I recalled when I made it previously, but I was out of breadcrumbs.  I had to take it as it was and hope for the best.
So I rolled into a log shape and wrapped it in waxed paper for chilling.
About 2 inches in diameter and 15 inches long.

This fit on a tray in my refrigerator.
It didn't firm up as much as I had hoped, even after 4 hours of chilling.  But I sliced it anyways and arranged it on a serving platter with the spiced wine on top.

The Verdict
They were sticky but not terribly so.  I could pick up a slice and eat it without losing much or any along the way.  I liked them -- the texture was interesting, the flavor was spices and dates and richness.  It was not too sweet, and the wine seemed to add a more "adult-like" feel to this dessert.

The people at the gathering I attended enjoyed it.  One thought it was good enough that maybe it was "healthy", which made me laugh.  No, not really, but it was fun to think so.  Most pieces were gone by the end of the evening and the host wanted me to leave some behind, which I did.

Success!  Although I would add more bread crumbs to make it thicker and not so sticky.

I also think that you could make the texture more interesting by kneading in some toasted nuts (I would use chopped almonds) before making the roll.  

And Now for the Bonus

What I took to the gathering was not all the date mixture.  I had a lot left over at home.  I decided it would be a good filling for a Chinese moon cake.  Completely non-traditional, I guessed, but I had been given a moon cake mold by YT and wanted to play with it.

Exterior view of the mold.
Interior view.
I used a recipe from Nyonya Cooking's website to make the golden syrup and the dough.  Click here to see it.  I already owned a bottle of lye water.  Golden syrup is just a simple syrup of water and sugar with a strong lemon flavor, and it was easy to make.
Just add water.

Simmered for 35 minutes to turn golden.
It tasted lovely!  I think I would make this just to have on hand for an ice cream topping or brushing on a cake or to put in my tea.  

To make the dough, which the site calls "foolproof", requires cake flour, for which I substituted 200 g all-purpose flour mixed well with 40 g cornstarch.  Also, the dough recipe author has never met this fool, as I managed to mis-measure the lye water, putting in too much.  I completed the recipe anyway.

Include the golden syrup!
I found that the mold could hold 25 g of filling with 25 g of dough comfortably.  It took a little practice to get it to work well in the mold, but it wasn't hard.  Weighing everything on a scale was a good idea.
This was too big for the mold.  Reduce by half.

Out of the mold, ready to bake.
First you bake them for 10 minutes, let them cool for 10 minutes, brush them with the egg wash, then bake them again for 10 minutes or until golden brown all over.  
Done!
Honestly, the filling was better distributed than this in many of them.

The Verdict

Nyonya's site says to let the cakes sit in a closed container for about 3 days for the oil in the filling to soften the crust.  Another website agrees but encourages tasting it while the crust is still crispy.  I did both.  

First, it was really obvious that I had put in too much lye water.  I could taste it and it was not a pleasant addition.  Even after the cakes had matured for a few days, the lye flavor was there.  However, I could get past that in order to judge the final result.  

I thought the leche Lombard filling was a very good idea.  It achieved similar results to the professionally-made moon cakes I have previously tried.  Tasty, not too sweet, and balanced with the crust.  My observation is that Asian desserts are very understated, and this was that.  But it was still flavorful enough to be interesting.  

Success again!  Just be careful in measuring the lye water...